A lot of us can relate to the creeping feeling of anxiousness at night. It’s been a long, stressful day, but it wasn’t too bad. You just want to relax, let go of all of your worries, and get some rest before the next day.
Then, you suddenly feel that gripping sensation in your chest and the panic starts to rise inside of you, tightening your neck and making the idea of being able to fall asleep seem unattainable.
Is it anxiety? What is anxiety? What are the signs of anxiety? Why does it come on at night? Do you wake up with anxiety? And, what can you do to calm the anxious feelings at night and get back to relaxing and sleeping?
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotional response, and its characteristics are tension, feelings of worry, and other physical reactions like an increase in blood pressure or heightened heart rate. The nature of anxiety makes it a mental and physical response to stress, fear, anger, or uncertainty.
All of us experience feelings of anxiousness from time to time. This feeling can help prepare us to deal with a situation by helping us to stay alert and be aware of our surroundings. These feelings can affect our ability to calm down at night and create sleep problems.
Some people experience these feelings of restlessness and anxiety when there is no known reason, or they feel the emotional and physical responses to an extreme. It is essential for people who experience extreme anxiousness to understand the signs to look for and ways to calm themselves.
We all want a sense of control over our responses to stress, and while it is sometimes necessary to seek guidance from a physician, there is still plenty we can do to support feelings of calm.
Signs of Anxiety
When feelings of anxiousness strike, you may experience sweating, dizziness, trembling, or rapid breathing. Other symptoms to look for if you are experiencing feelings of anxiousness are:
- Feeling restless
- Feeling tiredness or weakness
- Brain fog: difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty sleeping or poor sleep habits (Can lead to nightmares)
- Discomfort or difficulty with digestion
- Inability to control thoughts about worries
- Feelings of tension
- Feelings of impending doom
- Shortness of breath
Extreme anxiousness can feel debilitating. Learning what triggers your feelings of anxiousness can be a good step in combating them, and it’s important to remember that anxiety is a normal human response to stress.
When your feelings of anxiousness linger beyond the stressor’s presence, it can interfere with your life. Unfortunately, it’s quite common to experience these feelings at night, and it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep.
The stress response of anxiousness can also increase your body’s cortisol production, and high cortisol levels can make it harder to sleep and even lead to sleep deprivation. This can put you in a vicious cycle that can land you in a causality loop that’s nearly impossible to escape.
Having anxiety and sleep troubles can also increase the risk of other medical conditions like heart attack, stroke, traumatic stress disorder, and high blood pressure.
If you’re familiar with nighttime anxiety, there are supportive measures you can take to help alleviate your discomfort and combat these restless feelings.
Here are some useful tips for calming your feelings of anxiousness at night that can be implemented into your sleep routine.
How To Calm Your Nighttime Anxiety
When children are young, they can experience feelings of anxiousness at night. Fearing that monsters lurk under the bed, fearing the dark, and fighting the onset of sleep for many reasons are common among children. Adults usually know how to calm these nightly fears for children, but what do we do as adults when we’re the ones experiencing fear?
Fortunately, many of the steps we take for children to calm them at night can help us as well. First, we need to establish a nighttime routine, just like we do for children.
1 - Establish A Nighttime Routine
Children have a routine at night. They’re told to turn off the television at an appropriate time. They take a warm bath, brush their teeth, read a story, and turn out the lights. There is no reason that this method won’t help alleviate restless feelings for adults as well.
Establishing a routine helps calm our minds because we know what to expect, and this sense of routine can assuage fears of the unknown or uncertainty. When our minds know what to expect, it’s easier to relax into the normal flow of an established routine.
It may take some self-discipline and some trial and error to find what works for your nightly routine, but here are some good ideas to incorporate as part of your nighttime routine:
- A warm bath
- Some gentle yoga poses
- A set time for turning off your screens for the day
- Reading for 15 or 20 minutes before bed
- Preparing for the next day
- Journaling to clear your mind
- Taking a supplement
When you find the right routine for you, be consistent with supporting getting the results you want.
2 - Practice Meditation
Meditation can help deactivate the parts of your brain that turn on when you’re feeling anxious or experiencing stress. The practice of meditation can also help quiet some of the physical responses that anxiousness can cause. Meditation can:
- Slow down an increased heart rate
- Stabilize breathing
- Reduce feelings of tension
- Focus your mind on truths, not fears
Start with a short meditation and work your way up to longer periods to help quieten your mind. You can also incorporate these relaxation techniques into your nightly routine.
3 - Take A Supplement
Melatonin is a hormone that our bodies make naturally. This hormone helps control our sleeping patterns, and it’s typically produced more at night to help us fall asleep. As you can imagine, this hormone is part of the body’s response to nighttime to help us relax and get sleepy.
Because it is possible for our bodies to release less as we age or due to our increased exposure to blue light into the night, melatonin is available over-the-counter as a supplement. Studies have shown melatonin may be useful in supporting sleep health and decreasing feelings of anxiousness associated with sleep deprivation.
Other ingredients to consider in your supplement to help find relief from feelings of anxiousness are a Saffron extract, Panax Ginseng, Lion’s Mane extract, Rhodiola extract, and Lemon balm extract.
Saffron extract can help support emotional health and overall well-being. While lemon balm extract, Rhodiola extract, and Lion’s Mane extract can help improve cognitive functions and reduce cognitive fatigue.
When our minds are functioning and calm, it is easier to alleviate the symptoms of anxiousness. The Complete Calm De-stress Gummies are a natural supplement that tastes like a treat that you can add to your day that will help calm your mind, relax your body, and help you end the day on a more peaceful note.
Complete Calm De-Stress Gummies also contain a special terpene blend that can help alleviate the discomfort of feeling restless at night, and they have an almost immediate calming sensation. When you’re feeling anxious, the sooner you can improve your mood, the better.
4 - Reduce Caffeine Consumption
Most of us know that too much caffeine can cause jittery feelings, but when you’re feeling anxious before bed, and you haven’t had caffeine in hours, you may not make the connection between your lase caffeinated beverage and the overly alert feeling you’re experiencing from your feelings of restlessness.
However, caffeine can actually trigger our fight or flight response. That response is the basic definition of anxiety. We sense danger, and our bodies prepare to respond. When we consume caffeine and trigger that response, we can find ourselves ready for battle before bedtime with nothing but sleep to fight.
Reducing your caffeine consumption or setting a deadline in your day for when you won’t have any more caffeine could make an impact on the feelings of restlessness at night that you experience. Remember that caffeine has a half-life of five to six hours for the average healthy adult, so you’ll want to consider your bedtime and plan your caffeine accordingly.
Remember, caffeine is a stimulant, and stimulants are not helpful when you’re trying to establish a bedtime routine.
5 - Sunshine and Exercise
Getting some early morning sunshine can improve your circadian rhythms throughout the day, so by the time you’re ready to wind down for the evening, your body is more ready to produce the hormones it needs to get sleepy and relaxed.
In addition to a little sunshine in your day, adding exercise can help produce the endorphins your body needs to feel happy and less anxious. Exercise can also help improve your sleep and help you rest easier mentally and physically at night.
Feeling anxious at night can be a common problem. Still, there are useful tips that you can implement in your daily life to help support feelings of calm and alleviate the discomfort you feel from the mental, emotional, and physical response to stress and anxiety.
Find strategies that help quiet your mind at night. Establish a routine, practice meditation, reduce your caffeine consumption, take a supplement, and get some sunshine and exercise during the day.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.
Dominick Gauthier, Performance Expert
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)